My Christmas Song of the Day for December 10 used to be much better known, but it’s all but disappeared from the airwaves these days.
In 1973, Merle Haggard (born 1937) was already a well established country & western star. By the middle of that year, he had 15 #1 hits to his credit, many of them anthems to either the working class or the so-called Silent Majority, or both. His biggest hit from that period, 1969’s controversial “Okie from Muskogee,” spent four weeks at #1 on the country charts and even made some noise on the pop chart, where it got to #41 before stalling.
Just in time for Christmas of 1973, Haggard had yet another #1 country hit. Its tale of the father who’d been laid off from his job at a factory, wondering how he was going to be able to explain the lack of a “real” Christmas to his daughter, hit home for a lot of people – and not simply in the heartland, where Haggard’s fan base was. That hit, “If We Make It Through December,” became his biggest pop hit when it got to #28, the highest chart position for a Christmas-related song in the Hot 100 since Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Paper” hit #15 in 1963.
More than 40 years later, “If We Make It Through December” still has been known to ring way too true in way too many families. Haggard has recorded it many times, both in studio and live, but here’s the original version from 1973.